Climate Change and BC Parks
British Columbia’s protected areas are managed for important conservation values and are dedicated to the preservation of their natural environments for the health, inspiration, use and enjoyment of the public. Climate change has been identified as a significant stressor that may affect these values and activities in a variety of ways.
Mountain Pine Beetle damage in Uncha Mountain Red Hills Park.
Effects of Climate Change
Profound disturbances in parks and protected areas may include more extreme weather events, droughts, flooding, insect outbreaks, invasive species, coastal erosion, and wildfires.
More subtle effects include a gradual increase in temperature (especially in the winter), shrinking glaciers, rising sea level, and changes to the water cycle. These changes, while not dramatic on a day to day basis, will affect the distribution of species and the organization of ecosystems.
Research suggests that the ways in which parks and protected areas are used for tourism and recreation may change in response to a different climate and associated weather patterns.
Read more about the implications of climate change for nature
The future of protected areas management will be in maintaining functioning ecosystems and facilitating the movement of species within and across boundaries.
Although the distribution of species and ecosystems within protected area boundaries will change, British Columbia’s protected lands usually have a history of management that emphasizes the functional integrity of the ecosystems within their boundaries.
As species move and ecosystems reorganize in response to climate change, some will move outside established boundaries of protected areas while others will move into them.
Should protected areas shift to keep up with shifting climates?
BC Parks has recently completed some studies and is engaged in various initiatives to help the organization and its stakeholders understand the impacts of climate change on parks and protected areas in British Columbia, and how to address those impacts. Recent Climate Change Projects
Certain actions, taken today, will better enable adaptation to climate change by ecosystems and species, as well as by the human communities and institutions that all depend on a functioning natural system. BC Parks has endorsed the Climate Change Statement of Understanding and Working Principles. [PDF] This document can be used as a “climate change lens” in planning and operational decision-making to help BC Parks increase the likelihood of success in adapting to climate change. Read more